February 17, 2010

From Gerald R. Lucas


The word of the month: “testy.”

Well, the semester’s heading into mid-term time, and both of my upper level courses, New Media and 20th Cent. British Poetry and Prose, are taking their first exams this week. I just finished grading part one of the latter’s while my new-mediaers presently write away. My World Lit 2 class will have a two-part exam next week. I’m beginning to become a big fan of the exam and less of small papers and responses throughout the semester. I’m not sure of the pedagogy here, but it allows me to condense my grading.

My online World Lit 2 session course begins in a couple of weeks. I need to get on that syllabus.

I’ve been a bit testy lately. I think many of my colleagues think I’m a crank, especially those fellow committee members on the TRC. I teach New Media, as you will have gleaned from the first paragraph, so I’m pretty aware of the issues surrounding networked digital technologies. I won’t say I understand all of the consequences of being digital, but I do think that McLuhan was truly on to something when he wrote the “medium is the message.” McLuhan was concerned with the political ramifications of transparent technologies and how those can shape our reality. This is, in and of itself, not necessarily a bad thing; it’s the transparency that makes it insidious.

For example, if all you’re given to watch on teevee is, say, Jersey Shore, that’s bound to affect how you process reality – your values, what you think is important, your behavior. The more you watch it, the more it becomes normalized, as if that’s the natural way to view life. Stated another way: how can we critique something when is such a “natural” part of our lives?

The same goes for computer programs. If all you’re given is Internet Explorer, you might not ever question the use of it. You would be seeing the web through IE lenses, and never questioning that view. This is why the US government found M$ to be a monopoly, by the way.

So, this is the long way of saying that I’m frustrated with technology at MSC because I’m aware of the theory and research about media that many of my fellow committee members do not seem to be aware of. So, when I challenge the administration’s latest idea about making YouTube and Facebook inaccessible from campus, they can’t believe I’d have a problem with it. Interestingly, the network is super slow.

While the rest of the world is decentralizing, this institution is trying to reign it all in. (You need a video? Use our proprietary Windoze media format. Need a social network? Use Vista!) And MSC is not the only one.

I guess I just wish someone would pay a modicum of attention. I have a Ph.D. for a reason. Wouldn’t they want the advice of the experts? (No, you need to keep your elitist ideas to yourself.) Maybe I don’t play politically enough, but I’m frustrated at that whole situation, too. Politics in the US is not about hashing it out, it’s about saying NO! I can’t believe that these people can sleep at night with a good conscience. Health care reform? NO! Education reform? NO! Campaign financing reform? NO! (unless it’s to give corporations more rights and power) Are we all just selfish pricks?

As I said: testy. I used to make it longer into the semester before getting like this.

Oh, and people are becoming even more aggressive on the road. Maybe it’s that I drive a Mini, but many truck and SUV drivers seem to think they can do anything they want to on the road – and most of said trucks and SUVs are either cammo-decked or clay-soiled. Yesterday, this truck-driving dude was next to me in the right lane waiting for the light to change. We both had cars in from of us, and he knew that the right lane was ending after the light. The light changes and he keeps right up with me, all the while inching over into my lane. I hold my course. (OK, I could have slowed down, but he was the one who had to merge, not me.) He continues scootching into my lane, trying to cut me off, and I lay on my horn. He doesn’t seem to care, but realizes he’s not getting in front of me. He pulls behind me with a violent jerk of the steering wheel and begins to ride my ass. I turn on my right blinker because Elizabeth Place is coming up, and make my turn. Of course, Road Rage follows me. I’m sure he has something manly he wants to do to me. Instead of turning right on Hines Terr to go home, I start to make a left at the same time this idiot tries to go around me on the left. He probably had a gun to show me. Fortunately, I drive a tiny, quick car, so I’m able to stay in front of Road Rage. He finally decides he doesn’t have the time or his one rational neuron fires, and he turns back toward Pierce.

This is the second time something like this has happened in so many months.

Am I too antagonistic? Testy. I’m ready for spring break. So are my students. What do you take to cure the testy?